How to Enjoy Mud Season in the Colorado Mountains

A park visitor hikes in the Great Sand Dunes National Park in 2019. Photo: Helen H. Richardson/Denver Post via Getty Images

In the mountains, spring is known as the mud season.

What there is to know: Between unpredictable storms and melting snow, the hiking trails are often messy.

  • Higher elevations are particularly tricky as the terrain can remain snow-covered in shady spots well into June.

Why is this important: The biggest problem has nothing to do with keeping your hiking boots or bike tires in tip-top shape. It’s that crossing the mud is bad for the trail because it feeds erosion and because people trample the vegetation in search of dry ground.

What to do: It doesn’t mean you have to stay home. Here are some tips for making the most of the season.

Straight south: This is the perfect time to visit two national parks in southern Colorado, the Great Sand Dunes and Mesa Verde.

  • At the Dunes, the seasonal Medano Creek flows in late May and the sand isn’t too hot for your feet.
  • In Mesa Verde, it’s not too hot, so you don’t need to hide from the sun when exploring the red rocks and cliffs.

Front Range Hike: The trails closest to Denver are crowded in the summer, but they’re a bit more manageable – and usually not too muddy – if you choose the south-facing slopes.

Paddle: The water is still quite cold, which limits boat traffic.

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